Maria Montessori and the Classical Tradition

Maria Montessori and the Classical Tradition

What do you think of when you hear the word Montessori? Perhaps you imagine a room specifically designed for children, with small carpets and special shelves filled with activities. Perhaps you think of a carefully structured method to learn mathematics, reading, and even chores and crafts. Perhaps you envision a teacher following precise guidelines to educate children in a very particular way.

Many people are content with such images as their definition of Montessori. Few have taken the time to actually read Maria Montessori’s original writings. Few have investigated the underlying beliefs and convictions which shaped her model of education. Few have attempted to discern what makes Montessori’s method different from — or similar to — other philosophies of education today.

I was not content with secondary images so I went straight to the source. I took Montessori at face value; I took her at her word. And then I followed the logic rigorously to the surprising but inexorable conclusion. The facts tell the story. Listen and let reason be your guide. Do you agree with my analysis? There’s only one way to find out. Have a listen and let me know:

Click here to read the full text of this episode, including references.

5 Replies to “Maria Montessori and the Classical Tradition”

  1. I had to go back to your text version after I listened to the audio. The deadpan got me. I kept thinking “Is he being facetious?”

    1. Thank you for listening to and reading this article. Thank you also for commenting. I wouldn’t exactly say I was being facetious. All of the quotes are legitimate, and the logic parallels logic I commonly hear applied to Charlotte Mason. I am genuinely interested to discover if people find this line of reasoning convincing. I think some people do. What do you think?

      1. It is a little hard to say. My bias is that my knowledge of Montessori is minimal and my knowledge of classical principles similarly low. As presented, the ideas could be made to fit together. In practice, I’m not sure. And especially at the end, the question for me was why you would want to put them together? For maintaining clarity of foundational principles or for some other reason? I really enjoy the theoretical aspects of education, but combining or not combining things seems arbitrary sometimes.

        1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Could the issue perhaps be with the definition of classical education? The ideals attributed to Plato are ones that can be found in the Bible, and are shared by many cultures around the world, not only ancient Greece and Rome. Maria Montessori was obviously deeply influenced by her Catholic faith, and these beliefs are reflected in her philosophy of education. Does that make her classical? Or should the definition of classical education be circumscribed in some way so that it does not take credit for all of Montessori’s ideas?

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